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The Drinker by Hans Fallada first edition 1952

The Drinker by Hans Fallada first edition 1952


London: Putnam and Co. Ltd., 1952


8vo., red cloth gilt to spine; brown unclipped pictorial dust wrapper decorated with an image of a man in a bar, printed in black, turquoise and white, from a design by Klaus Meyer (12s.6d.); pp. [vi], 282; endpapers lightly offset, with some marginal toning to edges of text block; light corner crease from p. 195 to 214, accompanied by some dulling; a very good copy in the very good, toned dust wrapper, which also has a couple of small creases and nicks to the upper edge. 


First English edition, translated from the German by Charlotte and A. L. Lloyd. 


Der Trinker was written in code in September 1944, while Ditzen was imprisoned in Mecklenburg on a charge of attempted murder. Earlier that year, a drunk Ditzen had been arguing with his ex wife when a shot was fired. Suse Ditzen subsequently picked up the gun and hit Ditzen over the head, and he was confined to a psychiatric institution. There, under the pretence of writing an anti-semitic novel for Goebbels, he obtained a supply of scarce wartime paper stock and wrote The Drinker in dense, overlapping script which served to mask its true identity.


Later acquitted and released on grounds of insanity, Ditzen travelled to Berlin, where he died in 1947. The manuscript was only published due to the efforts of Herr Rowohlt, a German publisher who had visited Ditzen in jail and knew of the coded manuscript. What was revealed was a deeply critical autobiographical account of life under the Nazi regime, an act which, should it have been discovered, would have resulted in the death penalty. It was first published in German in 1950 and appeared here in English for the first time, two years later. 


Ditzen was a lifelong addict to alcohol pain medication, the result of having been run over and kicked in the face by a horse when he was just 16 years old. After the success of his novel Little Man What Now (1932), he had suffered a nervous breakdown, partly due to his rising anxiety about national socialism. On Easter Sunday, 1933, he was jailed by the Gestapo for "anti-Nazi activities", partly fuelled by his lack of participation in the Party. The Drinker draws on many of his lengthy experiences in the grip of alcohol addiction. 


The pseudonym ‘Hans Fallada’ comes from a combination of characters found in Grimm’s fairy tales; Hans in Luck, and the talking horse in The Goose Girl. 

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